Living the High Life

Darjeeling, West Bengal Travel Blog

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Once arrived in Darjeeling we checked into the Elgin Hotel, which appeared pretty much unchanged for 50+ years, even the waiters' uniforms looked original. Classic G&T's were quaffed, a good meal followed at Glenary's restaurant and then in to bed on a mattress more than 3 inches thick - heaven!

One of the reasons that my parents decided to come to Darjeeling was because Rose's mother had lived here during the war, and so we headed out on Wednesday to find the house where she had lived. The first day resulted in us finding a spot of land believed to be where the house had ben, but an earthquake in the 60's had taken it to its ruin. Lunch was taken in the Mayfair Hill Hotel, which looked a notch above the Elgin, so we moved in there the following morning. My expeiences of Kolkata had also persuaded me not to go back there, I quite fancied the state of Sikkim hemmed in between Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and West Bengal and arranged for a permit to travel there when my parents would leave.

The zoo in Darjeeling is said to be one of the best in India and, despite my usual abhorrence of such places, we headed to it. First impressions were fine as we watched a couple of Himalayan Black Bears munch contentedly on their shoots. However, things would quickly descend as we approached the leopards (common, cloudy and snowy) and the Royal Bengal and Siberian Tigers, which were clearly distraught as they walked up and down their enclosures, turning circles, clearly pretty unhappy with their lot. The Red Pandas were no better.

Thursday and I headed off alone to do some housekeeping and shopping, and the parents went off to double check the house, and this time actually found it! Now part of a school (ironically as Rose is a teacher), it was just a few hundred yards from where we had suspected it would be - result. In the afternoon we headed to the Tibetan Refugee Self-Help Centre, a small village purchased by the Americans and with Taiwanese contributions (clearly trying to rile the Chinese) where Tibetans could live and make their livings by making carpets and other handcrafts for sale. Thursday evening was our final time together and we headed back to Glenary's, the best food we had had in town.

The following morning we headed our seperate ways early, the parents to Kolkata for a connecting flight to London, I north in a jeep to Sikkim. It was wonderful to see them after several months away from home, just a shame that the majority of the week was cloudy and so we did not manage to see the famed views of the Himalaya for which the area is noted. Now, back to those skinny matresses!

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